US sets new COVID record; Concern over Trump’s troop cuts; Navy loses control of fleet plans; ‘Knife missile’ used in Syria; And a bit more.
The U.S. has set a new record for single-day coronavirus infections, topping the previous peak of 36,400 on April 26. The New York Times put Wednesday’s case count at 36,935; the Washington Post put it slightly higher, at 38,173. NBC News went much higher still, to 45,500. (The Centers for Disease Control has not yet updated from Tuesday’s 34,313 gains.)
Vice President Pence is urging senators to focus on “encouraging signs,” the Washington Post reported Wednesday. Like what? For example, “the fact that while infections are rising, the mortality rate is not,” Pence reportedly said in a closed-door lunch with Republican senators.
“Everyone should just wear a damn mask, like you guys are, like I am right now,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told reporters Wednesday after that lunch with the Veep.
New York, New Jersey and Connecticut now require travelers from eight states to “quarantine for 24 days upon arrival,” AP reported Wednesday. “The quarantine applies to people coming from states with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents on a seven-day average, or with a 10% or higher positive rate over seven days.” That means visitors from Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Texas have to comply, according to CNN.
Wanna dodge that? You could face a $2,000 fine, the Wall Street Journal reported.
COVID-19 drove the U.S. Navy to a new record. The aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower, and its escort, the guided-missile cruiser San Jacinto, “have been continuously at sea for 161 days” in a bid to avoid COVID-19, the Navy announced Thursday. That beats the record set by the carrier Theodore Roosevelt in 2002.
Where are they? On Jan. 17, both ships left Norfolk, Va., and headed to the Middle East via the Mediterranean Sea. Weeks after they arrived in the 5th Fleet area of operations, its commander suspended port visits in a bid to avoid an outbreak like the one that sidelined the Roosevelt.
“This monumental feat will only make our crews and the Navy stronger," said Capt. Kyle Higgins, Ike's commanding officer. (We hope that’s right. Tweeted sailor-turned-reporter David Larter: “The longest period of unbroken sea time I had was just over 90 days and that made me feel like I was going bananas. I can't imagine more than doubling that.)
And tip of the hat to the Navy for this bit of epidemic trivia: “The first USS San Jacinto was also underway during a yellow fever epidemic during the Civil War. On May 5, 1862, under the orders of President Lincoln, San Jacinto and other union warships bombarded Sewell’s Point, Virginia. On August 1, 1862, it was reported that yellow fever had broken out on the ship, so San Jacinto sailed north, laid anchor, and quarantined for four months.”
From Defense One
Critics, Allies Wonder What Trump’s Trying to Achieve with Troop Cuts // Katie Bo Williams: One GOP lawmaker worries “it’s going to hurt U.S. strategic interests more than it’s going to punish Germany.”
US Officials Detail Preparations for This Autumn's 'Inevitable' Coronavirus Surge // Eric Katz, Government Executive: Dr. Anthony Fauci and others say their agencies will not compromise science in their pursuit of treatments and a vaccine.
TSA's Updated Strategy Seeks Better Tech, Data-Sharing // Aaron Boyd, Nextgov: “TSA Administrator’s Intent 2.0,” released on Tuesday, updates the 2018 version.
The US Intelligence Community Is Being Disrupted // Zachery Tyson Brown: Intel agencies aren’t businesses, but they'd better learn from private-sector giants gone by.
Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Send us tips from your community right here. And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1950, “North Koreans Invade South Korea,” as the New York Herald Tribune headlined it atop the front page 70 years ago today (h/t U.S. presidential historian Michael Beschloss). POTUS45 and the First Lady are marking the day with a Wreath Laying Ceremony at the Korean War Veterans Memorial shortly before Trump flies out to Wisconsin.
President Trump visits Wisconsin’s Fincantieri Marinette Marine this afternoon. First he’ll fly through Green Bay, stopping to record a town hall with Fox’s Sean Hannity around 1:30 p.m. ET. Two hours later at Fincantieri, he’s expected to take a 20-minute shipyard tour before scheduled remarks at 4 p.m. Catch those on the White House’s YouTube page, here.
Fincantieri was just awarded a contract to build the Navy’s new frigate in late April. “If all of the options are exercised, the deal for 10 ships could be worth $5.5 billion for Fincantieri,” Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber reported.
Worth noting: The contract was awarded three months ahead of schedule, a goal of James “Hondo” Geurts, the head of Navy acquisition. Construction of the first ship is scheduled to begin by April 2022, with delivery expected in 2026. Provided that all stays on schedule, the first ship will be battle-ready around 2029 or 2030 — and fully operational in 2031 or 2032.
Fincatieri has its sights set on winning the contract to build a planned second tranche of 10 frigates, Weisgerber reports. The frigates are part of the Navy’s broader plan to build a 355-ship fleet.
In Cold War redux news: U.S. B-1B Lancers flew over Sweden and Norway about a month ago, just the latest in “a series of long-range strategic Bomber Task Force missions to Europe,” The Aviationist reported Wednesday with photos.
Sweden even joined this one. The mission played out on May 20 and involved Norwegian F-35s as well as Swedish Gripens practicing airstrike coordination drills with “Joint Terminal Attack Controller ground teams at Vidsel Range.”
“US bombers flying over Sweden is an astounding development in historical context,” Hans Kristensen, who directs the Federation of American Scientists' Nuclear Information Project, tweeted. “Not just because it’s the first time and they’re within JASSM-ER [the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile’s extended] range of Russia’s strategic base at Murmansk. But because it illustrates Sweden warming to NATO in response to Russian behavior.”
Wednesday night off Alaska: Two Russian Il-38 maritime patrol aircraft entered the state’s Air Defense Identification Zone and were escorted away by U.S. Air Force F-22s, NORAD announced today in a tweet.
It was the fifth time in a month Russian planes entered the ADIZ, according to NORAD, and this time they “came within 50 miles of Unimak Island along the Aleutian island chain, spending approx. four hours in the ADIZ before exiting.”
For the record: “The Il-38s remained in international airspace and at no time did the aircraft enter United States or Canadian sovereign airspace,” NORAD says.
Navy has lost control of its future-fleet plans, USNI News reports. The tipoff began in February, when the Pentagon did not send Congress the Navy’s updated shipbuilding plans along with its 2021 budget proposal. “Instead, Esper held them back from Congress, uncomfortable with not only the decisions the Navy made but also with the basic assumptions the Navy used to come to those conclusions,” USNI’s Megan Eckstein writes.
Now comes word that the Navy’s plan will be replaced by a “Future Navy Force Study” by OSD, the Joint Staff, and the Hudson Institute. Read on, here.
“Knife missile” used to kill purported al Qaeda leader in Syria. New York Times: “American and Qaeda officials said on Wednesday that Khaled al-Aruri, the de facto leader of the Qaeda branch, called Hurras al-Din, perished in a drone strike in Idlib in northwest Syria on June 14.
The missile used in the strike didn’t explode; it punched through a car milliseconds after deploying six knife-like blades — a rare use of a once-secret weapon. Read more about it, here.
Mike Flynn isn’t out of the woods yet. Writing in Just Security, Georgetown University law professor Marty Lederman says a federal judge’s order to dismiss the felony case against Trump’s first national security adviser is a stunning decision that broke from usual standards of judicial process and self-restraint” and contains errors that should lead to its reversal. Read, here.
One last thing for today, the Senate is scheduled to take up its first votes on the National Defense Authorization Act this afternoon at 1:30 p.m. ET.
Inhofe’s preview. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman, Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., teased this afternoon’s developments in Wednesday remarks posted to YouTube here. “The bill includes nearly 600 requests and amendments from members of the Armed Services Committee. In addition, the bill includes nearly 200 requests from Senators who aren’t on the committee," Inhofe said. "I’m confident we have a solid bill that reflects the needs of our troops, the Pentagon, and this body. Now, if we want to finish this bill before the end of next week, we need to reach a unanimous consent agreement before this Friday.”